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Mass Combat Rules Constraints
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Thaluikhain
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 01, 2017 1:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

deaddmwalking wrote:
2) It is actually possible, using those same rules to have 10,000 people fight 10,000 other people. However, the amount of rolling quickly becomes prohibitive.


A point that struck me the other day, while that is certainly true of doing it manually, you could get a computer program to do that for you. You'd have to pare the decision making down to something simple like "each soldier attacks the enemy in front of them", though.

Not sure if there'd be an advantage to that, however, beyond consistency of rules.
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deaddmwalking
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 01, 2017 2:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Having a computer program lets you actually track individuals if you want. Ie, it lets you make 10,000 individual attack rolls and 10,000 individual damage rolls and apply the actual effects. You could also assume 5% roll 1, 5% roll 2 etc and that's not going to be far off from 10,000. But that actually becomes deterministic very quickly. If you assume that 5% of your force rolls every number, you'll know exactly what it will achieve each round based on the number of troops surviving.

Rolling a die that REPLACES the individual rolls removes the deterministic element. Over the course of three rounds I might roll high/high/high or low/low/low or some combination. Each of those would matter. As a result, players who roll for 'their side' feel that they have a contribution to make even if their character isn't taking any specific 'heroic actions'.
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Thaluikhain
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 01, 2017 2:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ah, yeah, the dice rolls become interesting that way, han't thought of that.
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Iduno
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 01, 2017 2:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

deaddmwalking wrote:

Follow my logic here:
I) It is possible using an RPG mechanic to have a one-on-one or a one-on-several battle, or even a dozen versus a dozen.
2) It is actually possible, using those same rules to have 10,000 people fight 10,000 other people. However, the amount of rolling quickly becomes prohibitive.
3) Since the rules do support any number of foes fighting any other number of foes but the resolution system is very granular it would be nice to 'zoom out' and use just a few rolls to simulate the tens of thousands or rolls that you'd use if you resolved these actions at PC levels. In so much as the 'units' are undifferentiated you don't need to know if 'John' survived, just how many total casualties the unit took.

A mass-combat system isn't a wargame. It's a way to resolve the actions of a large number of people in a way that would be generally consistent with resolving all of those actions independently.

This is why our system used attack rolls with the 'too hit' number representing 50% hits and decreased or increased the number by 5% increments.

If you need at '15' to hit the opposing unit and you roll a '15', 50% of your squad hits. If you roll a 17, 60% hit; if you roll a 12, 35% hit. This allows for a single round to diverge pretty significantly from the average without rolling 10s of thousands of dice.


This sounds usable, quick, and fairly simple. Good for a base, if nothing else. The problem would be determining the AC and BAB (or whatever terms) of the unit. Would you just use an average?

You'd also have to abstract the effect of mages, but the list of spells you'd use in a large battle is significantly shorter than the full list (grease or web if you've got a group of mages, cloud spells, gate, divination spells, fireball if you've run out of ideas), so it could be done. Depending on how common mages are, you'd probably just add them to another unit (100 fighters, average AC x, average BAB y, two 7th level mages) as a force multiplier instead of having one powerful but vulnerable unit of mages.
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deaddmwalking
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 01, 2017 5:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ideally, a 'unit' is all the same. If you have a single mass of men but half of them are skeletons and half of them are hobgoblins, it's easier if you treat it as two separate units. In highly integrated units (say, with 10 unit types) that doesn't work very well. In that case, average attack bonus, average AC, average damage and total hit points are the four things you care about.

If I have a mixed unit (say, 200 skeletons and 400 hobgoblins) I'll apply damage in a fixed ratio. The skeletons and hobgoblins both have 6 hit points, but the skeletons have DR 5 which makes it effectively 11 hit points. For every 23 points of damage inflicted on this unit I'll remove 1 skeleton and 2 hobgoblins. For the sake of convenience and abstraction, I apply all damage to a single 'model' and overflow to the next.

Example
I went ahead and ran the following combat. 100 heavy cavalry charge the mixed skeletons and hobgoblins from the Monster Manual.

Unit 1
200 skeletons +1 (1d6+1); 4.5 average damage; AC 15; 6 hit points (11)
400 hobgoblins +1 (1d8+1); 5.5 average damage; AC 15; 6 hit points

Unit 2
100 heavy cavalry +3 (2d8+4 charge, 1d8+2); 13 or 6.5 average damage; AC 17 (average of mount w/rider); 37 hit points (mount 22 + rider 15)

Round 1
Cavalry: Roll 11, 55% hit [169 skeletons, 338 hobgoblins remain]
Skelton/Hobs: Roll 20, 75% hit [47 cavalry remain]

Round 1 expanded
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As a GM I would describe it:
The cavalry force slams into the skeletons and hobgoblins. Although they're outnumbered, their lances and thundering hooves push through the enemy line. Unfortunately, they fail to break through and the survivors begin dragging down the horses and their riders. In such close quarters the sheer number of the enemy become overwhelming.

Round 2
Cavalry: Roll 20, 90% hit [154 skeletons, 308 hobgoblins remain]
Skelton/Hobs: Roll 7, 0% hit [47 cavalry remain]

Round 2 Expanded
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As a GM I'd describe:

After switching to their maces the cavalry can't retreat but lays into the swarm. The skeletons and hobgoblins that rush toward them find their skulls crushed and bones broken. The lucky survivors of the charge have a moment of respite.

I'd go a couple more rounds and determine how the fight ends. I'd expect the hobgoblins and skeletons to win (having more numbers) but I honestly don't know. Just for the sake of completeness, I'll summarize the results of the rest of the combat.

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Final description:
The cavalry forces are pulled down and hacked to pieces by the relentless horde, but not without a fight. The melee quickly dissolves into small pockets of horsemen striking out with their morningstars, fists, hooves and everything else that can be brought to bear. The boldest and most heroic hobgoblins die first.

So this gives me a lot of information that can help with the game. For example, I know that the charge will keep this unit engaged for a total of 9 rounds. If this was a ‘sacrifice’ to allow the village time to escape, it might really matter whether the cavalry died in 3 rounds or managed to extend it to 9 rounds. I also know that the skeleton/hobgoblin unit is at about half strength. If this is a war of attrition, that’s going to be important. Maybe the skeletons can’t be recovered, but given a week all of the slain hobgoblins might show up as skeletons. In terms of running the calculations, it’s pretty quick – it can be done on a pocket calculator. It helps if you’re good with percentages.

What it really would benefit from is morale rules. The cavalry probably should have broken and run, or at least had a chance for that rather than fighting to the last man. D&D 3.x doesn’t include morale, but my heartbreaker does.
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Chamomile
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 02, 2017 1:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

virgil wrote:
Hey, let's ignore Dimmy for this thread. They're obviously the opposite of helpful.


Much as it pains me to ignore someone who's teeing me up to smack him around so easily, I agree. It's not like anything I have to say wouldn't be obvious to everyone else in the thread anyway.

Quote:
What it really would benefit from is morale rules.


This is what leapt out to me about the whole thing. Well, that and the fact that everyone is assumed to be in melee range of the enemy at all times rather than having any ranks, but as an approximation it's fine, especially since it has the major advantage of being immediately compatible with all creatures printed in any Monster Manual of the edition. Using nothing but HP and damage means that players' contributions are limited to their ability to add HP to their side or take it away from the other side, and when you've got several tens of thousand people on either side of the field, let alone several million, the PCs will not be able to very significantly contribute to the fight unless the fight drags out across weeks or months - and that's assuming a fairly high-level party messing with a low-level army of tens of thousands who have no answer to Overland Flight + Fireball except to spread out and wait for PCs to run out of spell slots and retreat into a pocket dimension for eight hours.
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Judging__Eagle
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 02, 2017 5:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

phlapjackage wrote:
I think this is the easiest way to tell if a GM is someone you want to play with or not. Have a situation that the GM has spent a lot of time/effort setting up, then bypass/solve/win it with some unforeseen coolness. If the GM laughs with the rest of you, they're a keeper. If they get upset at you, it's time to leave...


The PCs resolving problems in unexpected ways should be the primary motivation for refereeing games; not some sort of notion that's anathema to the purpose of RPGs.

The original Braunstein game sessions that inspired Dave Arneson to create Blackmoor wouldn't have been the same if the players began to actively attempt to do things that the referee not only didn't expect, but also had to think of a new mechanic simply to resolve (i.e. the last Braunstein session ended due to two PCs deciding to get into a duel, said duel being resolved w/ a die roll; and resulted in the referee ceasing to run more sessions afterwards due to not liking the idea of players having self-agency).
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MGuy
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 02, 2017 11:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

After looking at dead's pile o stats I'm now more in favor of Zin's idea. It has been my experience that not a whole lot of players really want to fiddle around with that many statistics outside of their own character sheet and dealing with all of those numbers while doable wouldn't exactly excite your average GM. This may be all the time I've been spending winding down my own games and just sitting at other people's tables in the last few months speaking but... I don't find many GMs that even do 'my' lazy level of work when prepping for and running a game and I barely spend more than 2 hours of work on any particular game I run between sessions (save for the first session which is where I front load my prep work).

In order to make that kind of thing work for people who aren't dead's group, I'd wager you'd have to make a FUCKTONNE of charts in order to deal with all those stats and more so people can have a reference and that seems like a lot of work on the GM's and any group of players. I think it would be better to #1 not use 3.5 as written to even attempt to mesh big time war and squad based dungeon crawling into one game and #2 to have much MUCH more simplified stats for opposing, mixed unit armies. Probably something that could be written down on a few sets of MAGIC cards with modifiers like 'flies', 'Cavalry', and 'big as fuck' to differentiate different units and then a morale system to determine the HP (or whatever) bar for any roving army. Possible with break points where certain cards are lost, battlefields with their own modifiers, etc.

On the other hand you can use Zinegata's idea. Frank's only counter to it seems to be needing to determine who won a battle and how hard they won which honestly I'd imagine can be done with a few charts or degrees of success 'o' meter.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 02, 2017 2:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

DeadDmWalking wrote:
Ideally, a 'unit' is all the same.


I think that if you write this sentence that you should admit that you have failed and walk away or try again. Identical units are not particularly difficult to model, and you could honestly do it with "representative duels" or some shit and extrapolate to the full battlefield. Your game presumably handles skirmishes somehow, so if the rest of the army is cookie cutter copies of troops you could play out on the skirmish game you could just play out the skirmish game and have some formulas for expanding that skirmish out to fifty, a thousand, or ten thousand functionally similar skirmishes across the field of battle. That's not particularly difficult or interesting.

The reality is that players in an RPG are going to accumulate an army at the rate of something showing up roughly for every adventure they completed. Now think about that for a moment. When you complete the adventure where you defeat the Drow Slavers and subsequently get a bunch of Orcs working for you, and then you go on the adventure where you save the Elves from a Dragon and get a bunch of Elves working for you and then you do another adventure and another adventure after that, your army is already going to be a deeply personal and totally bugfuck insane mishmash of peoples and themes. And what it definitely will not have is one, three, or even ten different troop types. It just won't.

You need a means to aggregate arbitrarily large numbers of arbitrarily dissimilar troop types. Because that is the output an RPG actually gives you. You keep having adventures, and you keep exploring new territory, and you keep recruiting more new stuff into your army. It never ever stops unless and until you decide to stop playing. If your game can't give me a shock value for 35 Gnollish Ravagers plus 48 Hobgoblin Worg Riders plus a Tyrannosaur plus 7 Wights plus 2 Manticores plus 3 Fire Elementals plus 19 Orc heavy infantry plus a Werewolf riding a Wyvern, your system is not fit for purpose.

You can certainly discuss and debate how much fiddly bits the system benefits from. But aggregating fundamentally dissimilar troops into easily digestible unit numbers is not negotiable. It has to be able to do that.

-Frank
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Zaranthan
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 02, 2017 11:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

It seems like this could be solved with a table similar to Wealth-by-Level, only with a sane hand on the quill instead of the rubbish we got in the 3.X DMGs. If the PCs are level X, you get (Y*Z) Troop Strength, where Y is a function of X and Z is a function of how your mass combat system balances.

So it's not really material to any specific campaign whether the level 4 quest nets you a company of elves or a platoon of fire giants. They add <level 4> troop strength to your army. Making that an output of playing Logistics & Dragons for a year is a separate minigame.
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Zinegata
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 04, 2017 3:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:
But that's exactly it. The players need to be able to progress and change the world. That is why the correct flow chart is this:

  • MC makes up starting inputs (example: "there is an Ogre").
  • The Players declare their actions and responses (example: "I attack the Ogre with my crossbow")
  • Abilities, rules, and die rolls determine how those actions affect the starting input (example: "The Ogre takes 12 damage and has 14 hit points remaining.")


That is a game. It's a game where technically the MC has unlimited power and could crush you at any time by declaring that there were five, seventy-five, or five thousand Ogres as needed, but it's still a game. The players still have meaningful impact and the numbers on their character sheets matter. They can make intelligent and reasonable decisions. They can guess that given normal die rolls their party can probably beat 3 Ogres and probably can't beat 13 Ogres.

The following is Apocalypse Fucking World:

  • MC makes up starting inputs (example: "there is an Ogre").
  • The Players declare their actions and responses (example: "I attack the Ogre with my crossbow")
  • MC makes up affects, continue from step one. (example: "The crossbow bolt sticks into the Ogre, and it bellows in rage!")


That's not a fucking game. The Ogre dies when the MC is bored of it, and the numbers on your character sheet mean nothing. The players can't make intelligent or reasonable choices because nothing fucking matters. Their chances against 3 Ogres or 33 Ogres are exactly the same, since it's just up to the MC's whim whether they win or lose either way.


I think you need to realize I am not proposing Apocalypse World.

The proposal doesn't have the MC making up effects within the encounter. Again the proposal is for an encounter-generation system, and within those encounters the normal pre-agreed rules of individual combat still apply.

If you want more rules to ensure DM fairness during encounter-generation then sure that'd perfectly fine - but quite frankly I assumed most systems already have guidelines on this to begin with. If the DM is throwing Level 20 encounters at a Level 5 party just because "they're in a battle", then the DM needs a refresher course on this whole "encounter design and limits" thing to begin with.

Moreover, the effects of these individual encounters still have an effect on the overall battle. I never denied that there needed be ways for the PC to affect the battle. Neither was there any denial of the need for a rules resolution system for those encounters that affect the overall battle.

The question had always been centered on whether you zoom out to a bird's eye view of the battle for a wargame minigame or you just use the battle as context for a series of encounters; which is not all that different from a dungeon. If you're saying that the latter is Apocalypse World then every dungeon ever made was also Apocalypse World.

Quote:
You still have to have a system to determine the results of the battle or your "encounter" can't affect those results. If the battle results are "whatever the MC goddam feels like" then winning or losing your mini-encounter is meaningless. The results of the battle are "whatever the MCgoddam feels like +/- 1." But you know what? That doesn't change C! Adding or subtracting a fixed number from an arbitrary constant just leaves you with an arbitrary constant.


Hence the "ladder" and how the encounters push the battle towards one side or another in addition to the army strength. Your PCs succeeded at a level 5 scouting encounter prior to the battle? Good job you reduced enemy army morale by X on the ladder (reflecting how the enemy is now unsure of what they are facing against) and that will help in the roll-off between the armies.

You can certainly criticize the system for being abstracted, but it's definitely not the abdication of all rules. Indeed, I have to say that the "ladder" system I proposed was actually largely cribbed off an actual wargame - Chains of Command - so it's not as though wargames themselves are opposed to these kinds of abstractions.

More specifically, the reason why Chains of Command used this highly abstracted system was because the designer wanted to keep the focus on the platoon-level battle; as the game was designed to reflect historical platoon-level engagements in World War 2. That was his design intent.

He could have made a very complicated campaign system that fully simulated the rest of the company or battalion, but he didn't because he knew most people played only platoon-level engagements as that was the game size most tables could actually support (alongside other games like Bolt Action), in addition to being actually fun for most of the play period and not just a whole lot of pointless die-rolling like say 40K Apocalypse.

[Interestingly, Chains of Commands also supports very large games involving multiple platoons, but his "solution" to the tedium problem is to make these games strictly multi-commander affairs, meaning that both sides have multiple players acting as individual platoon leaders commanding only a portion of the overall company or battalion. Because again the rules were primarily based and balanced around platoon level combat, and that the focus of the rules resolutions should be done at that level]

And not to belabor the point, but my critique is really centered around how this "zoom out" problem is magnified in an RPG focused on individuals. There are certainly people who are attracted to the idea of a zoomed out wargame mini-game, just as there are those who are attracted to the idea of managing an entire kingdom.

But by my experience this has always tended to be the minority of any playgroup, because sending units out to die like expandable pawns is not why most people play roleplaying games. Whenever I try to add army management into the game the focus invariably turns towards specific individuals within that army - "NPC Captain Dan's a nice guy who cares for his men" - rather than telling Captain Dan to take a hill even if it will likely result in 90% losses just to get a minor +1 bonus on some other attack roll.

And the reason for this really goes back to the fundamentally cooperative rather than adversarial nature of functioning roleplaying groups. RPG players are building a world together, and fleshing out the details of an army's people and personality is what keeps players coming back - because they now have a sense of shared ownership with the world.

By contrast the desire to "win" battles - which is the central objective of wargames - tends to be diluted in RPGs because everyone at the table instinctively knows that the DM must always lose or the campaign ends. The stakes for each individual encounter thus tend to be more personal rather than the simple desire to win - "I want to make sure Captain Dan and all his men survive this battle!" than "I want to win this battle!" - and it's this fundamental dichotomy that makes me skeptical about meshing the two genres together.

Anyway, I leave the floor to you. I don't think there's much else for me to add as I'm basically repeating what I said in my first post at this point:

"In short, rather than burying the party in another mini-game where they would potentially spend more time being accountants figuring out its current strength or logistics level, the "mass combat" mini-game should instead be a highly abstracted system that directly adds to the overall campaign story by generating interesting and context-relevant encounters; as encounters are the core dramatic element of RPGs in the first place. To do otherwise is to dangerously balance the game between two very divergent elements with the risk of not satisfying either one."


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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Zinegata wrote:
I think you need to realize I am not proposing Apocalypse World.


No. You need to realize that that is in fact what you re doing.

Look, it doesn't fucking matter how many layers of "fair" or "defined" procedures you have. What matters is whether we get from here to there in a defined manner. Which means that if one of your steps is "The MC makes something up, riffing on the die rolls" you are basically playing apocalypse World.



You can rant on all day about how the encounters are run according to rules and players can make reasonable choices within the context of the game people are playing. Sure. That's good. That's necessary for the cooperative storytelling game you're playing to not be bullshit. But it's not sufficient.

In Apocalypse World, the die rolls are also fair. I know what I need to roll in order to get success or success at a cost and I roll the dice and I get a result and I know what it is. But it doesn't matter, because once I've rolled the dice and submitted my work, the MC just makes something up. Maybe I succeed at the roll but the result is just that I fucking fail at the goal because the points don't matter and it's all the MC making up the next plot point.

Sure, you can have your encounter where you jump into the fray and neutralize an artillery piece or slay an enemy commander or something. That's the kind of thing a subsystem in a fantasy adventure RPG absolutely has to let you do. But it's not enough. You need to have an accounting step at the end where you determine who actually wins the battle and by how much. Otherwise the results of your actions don't actually matter. It's just Apocalypse World with some extra layers of obscurantism.

Apocalypse World has a single fair skill check and then it doesn't matter because the MC decides whether you win or lose the battle and success or failure doesn't change that. Your proposal has four round of fair combat against a couple Ogre Bodyguards or something, and then it doesn't matter because the MC decides whether you win or lose the battle and success or failure doesn't change that! It's exactly the same thing, just with more die rolls to confuse the issue.

The "encounter generation" portion you keep yammering about just isn't very hard or very interesting or very controversial. Obviously the enemy army is going to have some troops defined for it. And you can zoom in and fight some of them, and then those troops will be dead. Whoopdefuckingdoo. The hard part is the part where you need to have a system that tells you who wins the battle if you don't do that and who wins the battle if you do. Because if you don't have that you just have an empty and inconsequential dice rolling exercise followed by the MC telling you a story that may or may not be inspired partially by the die rolls you just had.

-Frank
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MGuy
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 04, 2017 12:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

If you say that doing the encounter generation thing is easy then the thing about having quantifiable consequences like "who won" and "by how much" are pretty easy to imagine. Coming up with a usable encounter generation system that makes it easy and relatively quick to set up tactically sound mass battle scenarios sounds fucking hard. If 'that' isn't hard then slapping some numbers like Army size/force number/morale and having a method of determining how those numbers interact sure as fuck wouldn't be any harder to do after getting that done. I'd rather tackle 'that' job then coming up with the generator.

It'd make 'more' sense if you were complaining that it absolutely needs to bend over backwards for some of the other criteria you want to shove into what is supposed to be a more minor portion of the game. Like having every different unit players could get to fight for them to interact absolutely uniquely from most if not all other units players could possibly get on their side instead of having more sensible modifiers like 'is ranged', 'is mindless' or 'is big'.

If the only thing is that it needs to take in some numbers and spit out other numbers (that is casualty rates and stuff) based off of what players can get done in the battle then I could imagine that an abstract system could easily do that. Say one of the encounters is 'Take the bridge to cut off reinforcements' then the result for the battle is that X part of B's army are delayed which makes sure that they are not factored into the 'Force Number' of B when the end battle calculations come up.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 04, 2017 4:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

MGuy wrote:
Coming up with a usable encounter generation system that makes it easy and relatively quick to set up tactically sound mass battle scenarios sounds fucking hard.


How is this hard? The enemy army is made out of Ogre heavy infantry and Orcish berserkers and archers. The players zoom in on an encounter, so they fight some Ogres and Orcs. And then you're done. It's that fucking easy.

The enemy army has various troops in it. :: An encounter involves some of those troops.

It doesn't have to be any more complicated than that. That is completely sufficient for an "encounter generation system." The enemy army already has a list of troops in it. You can fight some of them.

The hard part is the part where beating those dudes actually has an effect of some kind on the outcome of the battle. Because that requires a system for generating battle results that can be influenced in some manner by having the players defeat some list of enemies in an encounter separate from the main battle.

-Frank
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 04, 2017 4:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

It doesn't have to be anymore complicated than zooming in to fight certain people but... that's stretching. I'm not sure whether you're doing it on purpose but what you generated doesn't even sound like the example I gave in the post you quoted. Zin went on a whole screed about how GMs and players aren't generals and don't know the first thing about warfare and what his encounter generating system is supposed to do is allow GMs to construct scenarios that would be passable for the kind of scenarios people would find in real life warfare. So... no what he's been pitching has never been "There are an army of orcs and an army of humies zoom in and fight them without any context" and if that's what you've been arguing against then that's just you getting him wrong.

And no, I don't think generating results for battles or even scaling unit sizes would be hard.It isn't unless you want all the extra bells and whistles you listed here and in another thread. If all you want know is who won, by how much, and what effect a number of players doing stuff on the battlefield has on the overall conflict that is super easy. Hell I could do it with the pittance you gave the idea.

Ogres and Orcs are in a place, no details or strategic points of interest at all are given in the scenario because this isn't Zin's idea but whatever. So the players show up with some dudes and they fight the orcs and ogres. Both sides have numbers A, B, C that mean things. A Troop numbers, B The strength of those numbers (generated by 'ratings' of the units there in), and C for Morale. You start the battle. Zoom in. Players participate and kill some Orcs and ogres. Maybe once, maybe a few times. After the battle, tally up how many the players have killed, subtract those numbers from enemy side. Compare opposing numbers in whatever way (doesn't matter right now) and you get results. Now both sides have different numbers for A, B, and C. Rinse and repeat. That covers what you're complaining about. 1: Who won, 2: how much did they win by, 3: How did players directly impact those results.

That's not hard to do. The hard part is actually getting a generator that can actually generate genuinely interesting, tactically sound, scenarios out of various inputs like location, force strength, points of interest, etc etc. If you can get that then the rest is really, really easy. To make it more interesting have it generate multiple encounters that give various boons if completed or negatives if not completed so the players may be forced to split the group or make hard sacrifices in order to resolve these things. That, however, sounds hard.
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Stubbazubba
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 04, 2017 5:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

There is value in having a fully independent mass combat mini-game with a range of inputs, which the PCs can affect by their actions in the regular RPG scale of the game with no intermediating step of abstraction: eliminating the enemy sub-commander affects the mass combat resolution by directly removing whatever benefit the sub-commander was applying to his unit/s in the mass combat mini-game. That creates a high degree of tactical nuance and a potentially interesting mini-game to engage in with multiple options to affect the mass combat mini-game in different, potentially asymmetric, ways.

But abstracting that middle step is not the same as making it a GM ass-pull. If the output of the PCs' normal RPG-level success is simply an abstracted change in modifiers or a different position on a chart of abstractions or whatever, that does not break the chain of causation from the PCs' actions and the outcome of the battle. Zinegata's proposed ladder creates ex ante requirements to "win" the battle and by how much, even if the "by how much" part is only described generally and the GM does do some translation between "partial victory - low" and specific troop levels.

There may be some value in removing that translation, in having a self-contained mass combat mini-game that generates all those results endogenously, but at some point you get diminishing returns for your table time and people will prefer a "battle as encounter framework" approach instead of a battle as an independent mini-game. So long as you have some mediating layer that takes PC inputs and translates them into mass combat outputs, you are fulfilling the needs of the vast majority of tables while maintaining the chain of causation from player action to the outcome of the battle. Going beyond that becomes an exchange between the marginal benefit of the tactical depth of the mini-game and the marginal benefits of less rules complexity to grok and less table time spent resolving mass combats.

Edit:

Zinegata wrote:
A good framework for these kinds of "montage" sequences are "ladder" challenges. The party starts at the bottom rung (present state), and want to get to the top rung (the desired state). To ascend the rung they have to complete various challenges presented by the DM which could be self-contained adventures or encounters. Success lets them ascend the rung, while failure means they stay in place or are forced to go down a level. A time limit is then added to all of this to add tension and pressure.

This same "ladder" can very much be applied to field battles as well, albeit with the twist that the battle starts at the middle of the ladder which is the "Both our army and the enemy army can still fight" state, whereas the top and bottom represents one side (friendly or enemy) winning outright.

As with a traditional ladder, the DM throws the players challenges that are more personal in nature and suited to their character's skills - like say having a scouting mission where the party tries to determine the strength of the enemy line and eliminate a group of enemy scouts, or having your warrior challenge an enemy officer to a duel - and party's success or failure influences movement along the ladder.

In addition, there could be a separate "army" roll at the end of each challenge - with each army simply rolling off against each other based on their relative strength - with the winner getting a free advancement along the ladder in their favor. This simulates how the armies still operate on an entirely different level and how a party can only do so much to help it.


I just don't see how any of these steps fairly = "The MC makes something up, riffing on the die rolls."

The only thing the MC makes up in this scenario is the encounters presented to the players as tactically impactful. That does not negate player agency in affecting the outcome of the battle in any meaningful way. Sure, the players might want their idea to be tactically important, and the MC might disagree, but that does not change the fact that the players know how their actions relate to the outcome of the battle and can choose whether or not to pursue the goals that will get them there, or the fact that their success or failure in pursuit of those goals has a measurable, predictable, and non-fiat impact on the battle's outcome. You could determine tactical opportunities per battle round by a die roll to keep it neutral, and that would eliminate the last tangential fiat without crossing from "encounter generator" to "mass combat mini-game."
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angelfromanotherpin
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 04, 2017 5:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:
The hard part is the part where beating those dudes actually has an effect of some kind on the outcome of the battle. Because that requires a system for generating battle results that can be influenced in some manner by having the players defeat some list of enemies in an encounter separate from the main battle.

In both history and fiction you see situations where relatively small actions are lynchpins in the larger battle. I'd propose a 'heroic opportunity' table which would offer PCs specific army-scale rewards for winning PC-scale battles. Something like:

Roll 1d6RewardExample Encounters
1Reduce enemy morale by X%Duel the enemy champion, capture a standard.
2Increase enemy losses by X%Break a shield wall, sack the enemy healers.
3Increase friendly morale by X%Rescue prisoners, fetch a sorry bow.
4Reduce friendly losses by X%Break the charge, cover the withdrawal.
5Prevent friendly flank routHold the line, lead by example.
6Force enemy flank routTurn the line, shock and awe.

You could have recommended CRs for the encounter based on the size of the enemy army, so if the enemy army is small enough, the PCs might split up and try for an opportunity on each flank, but if the enemy is numerous they will stick together. Modify the CR based on the value of the reward (force rout > prevent rout > affect losses/morale).
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 04, 2017 5:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

In order to fit these constraints, consider the advantages of heroes over armies on a narrative level.

Heroes, while not superior to an army, are superior to a squad. Force multipliers therefore work disproportionally well. It's more efficient to throw a handful of heroes specialized for manticores than three score infantry for the same job.

Heroes move much faster than armies, and so do monsters. By the time your sufficiently large army reaches the destination, the dragon's burnt the village and left and the cult leader's finished the ritual. If you have a time crunch or a sufficiently evasive target, you send out the heroes who can keep pace.

This sounds to me that each 'turn' in your mass combat minigame should be based on army quantity. If the armies are fighting each other, then basing the turn off of either the largest or combined numerical total is ideal. If the smaller force is doing something other than fighting the army, then they can do whatever they want until the end of the 'turn' and leave at the end; and that's assuming they're in enemy territory so there isn't any travel time involved.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 04, 2017 5:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

MGuy wrote:
Zin went on a whole screed about how GMs and players aren't generals and don't know the first thing about warfare and what his encounter generating system is supposed to do is allow GMs to construct scenarios that would be passable for the kind of scenarios people would find in real life warfare. So... no what he's been pitching has never been "There are an army of orcs and an army of humies zoom in and fight them without any context" and if that's what you've been arguing against then that's just you getting him wrong.


The point is that it is actually sufficient to fight some Orcs if you're opposing an army of Orcs. It can be deeper than that, but it doesn't need to be. Creating encounters when there are a bunch of enemies over there is simply not very difficult. There are enemies, your next combat encounter can be with some of them. That's seriously all you actually need.

Those are the enemy. You fight them. Sorted.

The part Zinegata is going all Wargame Nerd on is simply not very difficult or very important. Yes, you could put a lot of thought into what the complements of an Orcish scouting party might look like, and yes you could make some sort of master tables that would allow you to derive such information. But... you could also just put no thought into it at all and just take some representative troops from the opposing army and put them on the battle mat and start the damn combat music. That would also work.

The difficult part is the aftermath. When the player characters take out an Orcish scouting party, they have not in fact removed the enemy army. There were a thousand Orcs give or take, and after you killed or captured a dozen of them there are still a thousand Orcs give or take. The loss of the scouting party is a real set back for the Orcish army, but without some actual quantification of the Orcish army's strength and position and its chances against the other army it is marching to fight, your actions don't have any consequence.

-Frank
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 04, 2017 5:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Well yes Frank if Zin's proposed system, instead of doing what he'd described, doesn't do those things and instead just does the bare minimum it would be very unsatisfying. Like say if I were to boil down your complaint about needing to know what impact the PC's actions had on the orc army by killing their scouts was taking those orcs out of the greater army (a real quantifiable impact on their numbers no matter how small) that is also unsatisfying. Luckily, I'm sure you're 'not' insisting that Zin's idea be done bare bones in order to score points against his argument because that would make you look silly. Just as silly as if I were to boil down everything you want into simple inputs and outputs and insist that you make a barebones system to answer each issue you want to resolve.

I'm sure that you understand that say if Zin had a system that generated encounters for a battle and one of the generated encounters was: Orc Scouting party, you could imagine there'd be a boon for completing that encounter also included in the generation system. So say your players wanted to do an ambush. Then your Mass Combat Encounter Generation System (which I'm going to call MCEGS from now on) would then generate encounter "Eliminate Scouting Party" with the boon that if you do it allows for the ambush to proceed as planned or if you fail the ambush is ruined and any Force/Morale Bonus or advantage or whatever is then taken away. Making 'that' kind of system would be hard. Getting the numbers for army sizes, morale, or whatever trumped up stats you might have after that is easy.
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Chamomile
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 04, 2017 8:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Frank's objections are weird bullshit. They're bullshit because they have nothing to do with what Zinegata said, and they're weird bullshit because Zinegata's system has some other obvious failings that he is for some reason ignoring. No one (ignoring blatant bad faith actors) disagrees that convincing the fire giants to show up to your side and fight should make a real difference to the fight, and that it should do so in a way that players can predict in advance (the same way that players can predict the result of an attack on an ogre - they don't know what numbers will come up on the dice and for that matter they don't even know that the ogre isn't secretly rocking a deflection bonus to AC, but they can be pretty confident that they have X% odds of hitting for an average of Y damage). What, then, is the benefit to the ladder of having a bunch of fire giants show up?

The obvious answer is that the nature of the ladder is somehow changed to reflect your increased force power, but #1 this means the ladder cannot be something the GM made up the week before the session where the mass combat started. If he isn't even determining enemy force composition in the way that is relevant to the game (i.e. the ladder that players fight through) until after they've already rounded up all their allies, then the number of allies rounded up comes down to wallpaper and whatever influence it has on the GM's state of mind. To the extent that has any impact at all, it's completely impossible for players to predict in advance what that impact is, which is a problem.

So okay, let's assume the enemy army and at least a rough idea of its ladder size and what players need to do affect it (i.e. nine rungs, you need X troop power to shift up by one the rung you start on come day of the battle) are determined in advance and available to players either by fiat or as the result of some reconnaissance. That still means that it makes no difference whether players recruit the fire giants or the orc hordes, except in that one or the other is going to be worth more troop points. There is a lot of value in being able to say something like "warg cavalry will be effective in the initial charge and in chasing down routing enemies to prevent them from regrouping and rejoining the battle, but they're much less effective in a potentially decisive melee. Ogre heavy infantry are more vulnerable to missile attacks during early skirmishes, pretty effective during the charge, and also pretty effective during the melee. Hobgoblin infantry are disciplined, which makes them less vulnerable to breaking up to flee or hunt down skirmishers during those early missile attacks and by far the best option in the melee, but they're not very good during the shock phase and might be crushed outright when the armies first meet if the enemy is bringing lots of cavalry and monsters."

At that point recruiting allies isn't a matter of making a list in descending order of who gets you the most points and getting as far down that list as you can before the battle starts, but rather a question of real decisions to be made based on the unknown factors of how strong the enemy is in different phases of the combat. You could exchange those phases for some other RPS sort of relationship between different units, although the thing I like about the phase approach is its simplicity in resolution. You don't have to give your cavalry a bonus based on the number of archers and monsters in the enemy force while also giving their infantry a bonus based on the number of your cavalry. Instead, each ball of troops just has a different value for each phase and you add those together to get the army's power in that phase. A horde of a thousand orcs might be worth 5 points in skirmish, 8 points in shock, 10 in melee, and 6 in routing/regrouping, and then it's easy to just add that to however many points your elves and centaurs are worth in those same phases and bam, army power complete.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 04, 2017 8:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Because you want to both care about reconciling Elf-Dwarf relations while simultaneously not worrying about force composition, you could have it be a tiered thing. Getting orcs willing to fight for you works great, but both them and the elves in your army have a penalty to morale or shock or whatever until their issues are resolved. Uniting two forces can be done either through teaching them the power of friendship, or you can take the fast route and be an iron-fisted tyrant that scares them into unity, leaving an opening for the penalties to come roaring back if the Dark Knight is slain.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 05, 2017 4:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Quote:
I'm sure that you understand that say if Zin had a system that generated encounters for a battle and one of the generated encounters was: Orc Scouting party, you could imagine there'd be a boon for completing that encounter also included in the generation system. So say your players wanted to do an ambush. Then your Mass Combat Encounter Generation System (which I'm going to call MCEGS from now on) would then generate encounter "Eliminate Scouting Party" with the boon that if you do it allows for the ambush to proceed as planned or if you fail the ambush is ruined and any Force/Morale Bonus or advantage or whatever is then taken away. Making 'that' kind of system would be hard. Getting the numbers for army sizes, morale, or whatever trumped up stats you might have after that is easy.


The contention, I think, is that Zin specifically and our hypothetical Mass Combat GM in general have an MCEGS that exists and determines the ultimate battle ledger, but it's where poop comes from. Frank seems to be saying instead that the MCEGS can just be a regular ass RPG encounter, which does something defined to the previously described theater of war. So when you say Zin's MCEGS spits out "Eliminate Scouting Party" off a dwhatever, but that doesn't actually mean anything in the grand scheme of things, it's a failure point. And I personally feel that the players should be making the decision to perform specific special ops instead of it being determined by a chart or any non-deterministic schema.

The part that's important to hash out is where and how you present the boons/encounters in a deterministic way. Someone was talking about CO Powers from the subcommanders; beating an encounter could negate that CO Power or impose a negative CO Power onto that regiment.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 05, 2017 7:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I really don't get your contention. The example I used in the hypothetical had the players making a decision (perform: ambush)which is a tactical decision they make. I have suggestions for what both that decision and the result of the generated encounter have on "the grand scheme of things". So in my hypothetical I describe the players making a tactical decision, an encounter for that tactical decision, suggest outcomes from completing or failing to complete that encounter and what it would mean for the inevitable numbers clashing you'd have overall. I even go farther and imagine that could be made better by allowing multiple possible encounters to be generated at once and allowing players to decide which to involve themselves in and not.

As I see it Zin's idea actually solves the problem of getting Mass Combat to work in the game while keeping things squad level and therefore still relatable to the main combat engine, abstracting the battle to keep the workload on the GM and the players to a minimum, and that can easily produce outcomes for the player's actions and decisions. The biggest problem I see is actually creating a MCEGS that actually produces interesting and tactically sound encounters. If that fat load of work can be done then coming up with numbers, scaling armies, etc would be easy.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 05, 2017 5:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The problem is still the overall conclusion of the battle is produced by fiat/MCEGS chart production.
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